Even as I begin to write, I’m wondering about the title of this blog and the ensuing firestorm it might create; nonetheless, I am compelled to raise the difficult question. When considering the conditions of the world, I wonder if the Church needs to admit some responsibility for the apathy of this generation.
As we watch the world unravel like Scripture predicts, it’s so easy to point fingers and find fault with others. While hateful regimes recruit young people to their causes of chaos and destruction, how should the Body of Christ react to the apparent appeal that draws the allegiance of a few misguided souls?
As I listened to the media respond to the horrific attacks of November 13 that rocked the city of Paris, I was struck by the words of one commentator. When asked what was so attractive about ISIS to young combatants joining their ranks, she gave this stunning overview.
There’s a growing religious fervor in the world, which captivates young people seeking mission and purpose. This generation is searching for meaning; they want to know their lives matter. If life offers little hope, why not leave your mark and let the world know I was here!
Her response may appear bleak and bothersome, but it cannot be brushed off. I have wrestled with her words for days. Certainly, there is an evident element of spiritual warfare at work—I will concede that point. What I won’t do is abdicate on behalf of the Church and abandon our biblical obligation to fill the void they feel.
Where am I going with this post? Well, let me see of I can land the point precisely.
The world—even including maniacal militias—is alluring. From the promises of prosperity to prominence, society beckons, “Follow me. I’ll fulfill your appetite for acceptance and your desires for destiny.” Contrast that proposition with Jesus’ petition to young men of his day, “Follow me. I’ll help you find your real purpose.”
The Church may not be solely responsible for the apathy of young people seeking significance from the world. We can debate that detail later; however, we are guilty of lowering the bar and lessening expectations. God created young people for significance; Jesus called them to service. So how do we promote the purpose they pursue?
As we look at the future of the Church and its role in the world, we must contemplate the methods of the Messiah. He warned his young protégés of the perils they would face. But armed with his weapons of truth, righteousness, peace, and salvation, they would ultimately persevere—even if it cost them their life—and it did.
Young people aren’t search for safe. They are seeking significance, which equates to sacrifice. The cost of following Christ—not attending church or youth group—is dangerous. Risky. And unpredictable. But for this global generation of young people longing for purpose, it appeals to their deep-seated desire to make a difference.
We must stop asking adolescents to walk the aisle to follow Jesus without also asking them to walk the line. And we must lead by example. Because comfortable Christianity isn’t captivating. Convenient faith doesn’t compel. Making a difference doesn’t mean going to youth meetings—not to this generation—not anymore.
Evil empires and lucrative enterprises are clamoring for young people to join their cause. They’re appealing to their sense of significance while rallying them to a shallow-short-lived-future. The Church has so much more to offer, so let’s raise the standard and invite them to experience the abundant and eternal life Christ promises.
If we want young people to see the way of Jesus as a cause worth joining, then we must create the space for them to freely pursue the passions that he places upon their hearts to imprint the planet with God’s love. Until that becomes the predominant protocol of congregations, the Church does bear some blame for their apathy.
Please answer these questions honestly:
- Does your church give young people permission to risk failure to pursue God’s leading in their lives?
- Do you measure the commitment of teens to Christ by more than their attendance of your programs?
- Do you publicly and privately celebrate acts of obedience by young people putting their faith in action?
- Do you have a plan to change the direction of your ministry with youth if you answered no to all three?